Be My Valentine
by Sheila Rabe, contemporary (2001)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-12995-X

Oh good Lord in heaven, has the Earth stopped shaking yet? Or maybe it's just the ringing in my ears. Or my blood pressure which could probably cause the sphygmomanometer mercury bulb to explode like the next Hiroshima. First it's Christmas, now it's Valentine. I'll be very afraid when Easter comes.

Be My Valentine, like that horrible, horrible All I Want For Christmas, pairs two ingredients in romance that are guaranteed to cause cardiac arrest in old me (don't get any ideas, people) - the Clueless Bimbo and Secrets. It follows the Stupid Rules to a tee: when a hero lies to a heroine, he does it well and she won't even know it until it's too late (after the boinking), but when a heroine lies, she does it ineptly and causes the whole story to plunge into silliness. Since it is heroine Shelby Barrett who lies here - oh good Lord indeed.

Shelby wants a commitment from her boyfriend Matt, so she sends herself flowers. From a "David Jones". Matt discovers there is indeed a David Jones about, nearby too, and - poor David. Here is a nice guy - short but nice - who has to fall for Queen Ditz Shelby. Shelby wants only Matt, however, and no man will do. But hey, she isn't above using David to make Matt "come to his senses".

Shelby ropes in her mother Diana. Matt, in turn, wanting to avoid getting married to Shelby (I understand - you can hide in my house if you want, Matt), asks his uncle "Lance Romance" to woo Diana, so that Di wouldn't give Shel any good ideas. And Di, instead of calling the cops, actually falls for a man called Lance Romance. I like Di better than her daughter, but as the story progresses, Di, which starts off like some semblance of an independent woman, soon has her brain cells fried by love.

All of this could be endearingly cute, of course. But the author turns up the ditz factor so much that I swear if Shelby come a mile near me, I will get nosebleed. She is CLUELESS. Sure, sometimes we may take awhile to see the Prince Charming before us, but this - this woman, if I may call her that, is one of those whiny, teary-eyed woman who keeps moaning about how horrible her life is when all she could've done is to pick up a Deepak Chopra book. Passive and absolutely screwed-up in all the wrong departments, she better not walk in front of my car or I won't be responsible for what happens next.

I look at Shelby's snappy best friend Leeza, then at Dave, then at Leeza again, and go, "Oh, you poor girl, Leez, you're just like Joan Cusack - stuck in the best buddy role and has to watch the good men go to lousy, undeserving, and sickly too-sweet Meg Ryan ditzes."

Come to think of it, the secondary female characters (Leeza and Di's friend Suzanne) and Dave are the saving graces in this dire, by-the-book "let's have a laugh at our stupid heroine's expense" screwball comedy. I wouldn't be so irritated if the author has at least try to make Shelby human instead of the walking screwball ditz caricature that woman is. Yes, love makes fools out of people, but in this Valentine greeting card masquerading as a romance novel, the foolishness is at the cost of the romance. There are some hints of depths - slight hints, such as the very, very subtle steel in Diana's personality - but still, not enough.

File this mush under Stereotypical Screwball Comedy Devoid Of Substance and call up Helen Hunt, somebody.

Rating: 48

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